How to Create the Perfect Sales Process
Sales Management : 8 min read

How to Create the Perfect Sales Process

The perfect sales process for your team works like a blueprint.

It gives you a clear guideline on a series of steps to take you from prospecting to closing. It’s a process that everyone can use that works every time, with room for modifications and improvements.

Generally speaking, a typical sales process will involve these seven stages:

  1. Prospecting: Identifying potential customers via events, referrals, online research, etc.
  2. Connecting: Reaching out to your leads via phone, email, or online with a short sales pitch
  3. Qualifying: Determining your chances of conversion and deciding whether or not to move forward with a lead
  4. Presenting: Fully pitching your product to a qualified lead, whether in person or online
  5. Handling objections: Addressing any concerns from your leads and engaging with their specific needs
  6. Closing: Converting your lead into a customer
  7. Getting referrals: Using this new opportunity to generate more leads

Your sales process can be your company's biggest bottleneck, but it also determines how many customers you'll generate from your marketing efforts.

For most companies, it controls the largest portion of revenue. It even forms the first meaningful interaction that a prospect or future customer has with your company.

And even if you're happy with your current sales performance, there's a stark difference between a basic, run-of-the-mill sales process and one that's carefully calibrated to the exact needs of your customers. That difference can translate into hundreds, or even thousands, of lost customer relationships.

The perfect sales process will closely follow the steps the customer takes in order to buy your product.

Without this understanding of the buyer’s journey, even a clearly defined sales process will not be enough to generate maximum conversions.

So, here are four strategies for moving your sales process closer to the perfect end of the spectrum, making it:

  • Valuable for customers: Customers leave the sales process happier and smarter than when they started.
  • Efficient: Every minute of skilled sales time is used in a productive way.
  • Repeatable and predictable: You can accurately forecast future sales performance.
  • Lucrative: The sales process sets the stage for a long-term customer relationship.

Whether your current process is tried-and-tested or rough-and-ready, small improvements will translate into better customer generation, revenue, and long-term customer happiness.

1. Help your prospects before you help yourself.

Most buying decisions follow a similar path:

  • Research and evaluation: We run into a problem and try to identify potential solutions.
  • Consideration: We compare the pros and cons of different products that could fix the problem.
  • Decision: We work out which package is best suited to our needs and decide how much we're willing to spend.

Though this provides a clear framework for understanding how buying decisions are made, we tend to define sales processes in terms of a salesperson's objectives:

  • Prospecting: We identify leads to start building a relationship with.
  • Qualifying: We work out which prospects are the best fit to become customers.
  • Closing: We pitch and close a deal.

This creates a disconnect between your sales process and the experiences of your potential customer. While your prospect is educating themselves with your blog content, you're pushing for their email address; while they're trying to understand your product's features, you're trying to work out their budget.

A great sales process is valuable for both company and prospect. In order to provide that value, you need to map how you sell to how they buy: shaping every phone call and email exchange to solve the problems they're experiencing at each stage of the sales process.

sales vs buying process graphic
At each stage of the sales process, your prospect is trying to solve a different set of problems. The better you understand these problems, the easier it is to shape your sales strategy to solve them.

The deeper your understanding of the buyer's journey, the more effective your sales process becomes.

When prospects are looking for advice, you'll know to share sales collateral, like blog posts and ebooks; when they're weighing up two vendors, you'll offer a timely case study; and instead of pushing them towards a deal because it's the next stage in the sales process, you'll progress them through the funnel when—and only when—they're ready.

Most salespeople focus solely on converting a lead into a customer. When you shift that focus by striving to be the one salesperson that provides the most useful information for the benefit of your lead, chances are they’ll notice and appreciate your expertise. This approach will form the basis of relationship selling, helping to form trust between you and the customer.

2. Ditch data entry and stop stifling your sellers.

Salespeople are highly skilled. They're adept communicators with deep product and industry knowledge. And yet many sales processes force salespeople into tasks that are time-consuming and unskilled, like:

  • Scouring the web for contact information and manually updating their CRM.
  • Micro-managing dozens of email threads and follow-ups.
  • Switching back-and-forth from calendar to Gmail to CRM.

Though follow-ups and prospecting are important parts of relationship-building, they're little more than data entry. There's no reason a salesperson should be responsible for these tasks when a piece of software could do them instead.

Thankfully, that's exactly what modern CRM systems are designed to do:

  • At the click of a button, data enrichment can populate your CRM with up-to-date contact information for all your prospects.
  • Logic statements (e.g. if a prospect opens my email, then send a meeting request) allow you to completely automate timely follow-ups.
  • Integrations with your key sales tools add contact information directly into Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive—with no need to switch back and forth.

Your sales process should eliminate time-wasting activities, not add to them—and if you have a chance to replace a labor-intensive process with automation or data enrichment, you should.

The more heavy lifting your CRM does, the more time your sales team has to focus on the skilled work of building customer relationships.

According to a study by Forrester, successful CRM adoption can generate up to 245% ROI by increasing productivity and revenue while reducing time and costs. CRM doesn’t just help sellers manage their workflow; it also results in better customer relationships. This makes it a necessary investment that forms a fundamental part of your sales process.

3. Use a feedback loop to get stronger with every sale.

New customers, product features, competitors, and marketing strategies all mean that your business isn't static—so your sales process shouldn't be static either.

When your paid advertising costs spike and throttle lead generation, you need a way to identify potential shortfalls in revenue. When a sales rep improves their close rate, you want the flexibility to send more prospects their way.

To do that, you need to build a feedback loop into your sales process, a way to continually reshape your process in response to real-world performance data.

sales process feedback loop
Your sales process needs to be built as a feedback loop, with reporting and forecasting activities ultimately leading to improvements in your performance.

The feedback loop starts with performance reporting: tracking key metrics to get a snapshot of sales performance at a given moment in time. These metrics will be unique from company to company, but there are a few universal KPIs worth tracking, like:

  • Total number of prospects in each funnel stage
  • Pipeline velocity: the amount of revenue generated each day
  • Rep performance: opportunities created, meetings set, and deals closed

In order to move from fire-fighting to proactive management, we can use current performance data to predict future performance, identifying:

  • Conversion rates: the rate at which prospects move through the sales funnel
  • Pipeline revenue: predicting how much revenue a given cohort of prospects is likely to generate
  • Best lead sources: identifying which marketing channels are likely to generate long-term customers

Finally, we can use our predictions to adjust the sales process and proactively tackle problems before they appear. In practice, this might look like:

  • Telling sales reps to prioritize leads from our best-performing marketing channels.
  • Identifying potential shortfalls in pipeline revenue and boosting lead generation to compensate.
  • Creating case studies and educational blog content to help streamline slow parts of the sales process.

Instead of setting-and-forgetting your sales process, it needs to be a living, breathing entity, continually reshaped to better serve your business. The perfect sales process is one that changes with consistent iteration. It never stays stagnant.

4. Keep selling, even after close.

Most sales processes plot a course from a salesperson's first interaction with a prospect through to the moment they become a customer. But in a world of subscription services, ongoing customer relationships are more important than ever—especially when the bulk of a customer's lifetime value can come from upselling and cross-selling, months after an initial purchase.

In reality, the buyer's journey extends far beyond a single sale, so our sales process needs to do the same. Instead of being short-sighted and focusing on how our salespeople interact with prospects, we need to help customer success teams keep the relationship going for months afterwards. Here's how Kissmetrics does it.

customer success stages
Kissmetrics understands the importance of recurring revenue and built out a dedicated Customer Success process, outlining key milestones that reps should be helping their customers achieve.

Instead of viewing “sales” and “customer success” as distinct, unrelated entities, you should treat them as a continuation of the customer experience.

That means that relationship data shouldn't be locked up in a sales-only CRM; it should be easily accessed by the whole company. Revenue generation shouldn't be a sales-only pursuit; customer success teams should have their own targets for upselling and cross-selling.

What is the “perfect” sales process?

When we strive for a “perfect” sales process, we're really striving for a better way to manage our customer relationships.

In the modern world, that means moving away from one-off sales towards ongoing partnerships. Instead of breaking off our interactions once we've made a sale, we need to create a framework for managing long and profitable relationships. Instead of fixating on the perfect one-size-fits-all sales process, we need to continually reshape our own process to better fit the needs of our customers.

For sales teams, going that extra step and doing the proper research to understand the customer’s needs will make all the difference. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is the customer is a first-time buyer or looking to make a switch?
  • What was their experience like with a similar product? Why do they want to switch?
  • How many employees or people do they serve with the product and how does that change their relationship with the product?
  • What is the core problem they’re looking to solve and how can you provide a solution?

Put yourself in their shoes, understand their journey, and shape your sales process to match their needs instead of working the other way around. That’s how you get closer to that elusive “perfect” sales process.